Iran has executed two men convicted of illegal currency trading, as Tehran steps up its crackdown on alleged financial crimes in the face of economic hardships heightened by U.S. financial sanctions.
State TV reported that Vahid Mazloumin, labeled by the Tehran police chief as the “Sultan of Coins” and his alleged accomplice, Mohammad Ismail Ghasemi, were hanged early on November 14 following their convictions in late September for currency manipulation and for "spreading corruption on Earth.”
The action is part of the Iranian government’s attempt to combat the country’s economic depression by cracking down on perceived financial misconduct. In August, special courts targeting economic crimes were established with the approval of the country’s highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
At least seven death sentences have been delivered by the courts since the crackdown, with many of the trials being broadcast live on national TV.
The UN, Western countries, and International human rights groups have expressed concerns about the rising number of executions and reported torture incidences in Iran for a variety of alleged offenses, including issues related to religious freedom, women's rights, and economic protests.
Mazloumin and Ghasemi went on trial on September 8 over charges of "disrupting the economy" through the creation of a network trading in illegal currency and gold coins.
They were sentenced to death in September after being convicted of "disrupting the economy" through the creation of a network trading in illegal currency and gold coins. Their convictions were upheld by the Supreme Court in October.
The 58-year-old Mazloumin was arrested in July for hoarding two tons of gold coins. His defense claimed that the Iranian central bank did not have any limits on the amount of coins a person could hold.
The Tehran prosecutor on November 14 said Mazloumin's “network was one of the most influential unlawful activists of the foreign-exchange and coin market.”
A third person, Hamid Bagheri-Dermani, was also accused of corruption and sentenced to death in preliminary hearings. His case was up for appeal before the Supreme Court, but the status of his case was not immediately clear.
At least 32 other people were sentenced to jail terms after related convictions in the case, Iranian media reported.
Many Iranians have stocked up on gold coins and foreign currencies to protect themselves from the collapse of the domestic currency, the rial, which has fallen some 70 percent in value in the past year.
The currency's fall came as the United States in May withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers, and in August started reimposing economic sanctions that had been lifted in exchange for curbs on Iran's nuclear activities.
Growing public anger over high inflation, economic hardship, and widespread corruption has led to sporadic street protests in Tehran and other cities, with the demonstrators chanting anti-government slogans.
With reporting by Reuters and AP